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Album Review

With its dense layers of music and found sounds, Panda Bear's Person Pitch became an indie rock standard-bearer almost immediately after its release. Trying to top it would be a daunting task, and on Tomboy, Noah Lennox doesn’t attempt it. Instead, he strips away the samples that made Person Pitch so hallucinatory and focuses on guitars, drums, and emotive melodies. A few found sounds make their way into the bookends “You Can Count on Me” and the beatific “Benfica,” giving the impression that Tomboy picks up right where Person Pitch left off, but the album’s overall sound is much sparer: the aptly named “Drone” and the smoky “Scheherazade” are downright minimalistic compared to what came before. Yet Tomboy is just as dreamy and hypnotic in its own way, with Lennox's familiarly looping melodies and structures coated in so much reverb and delay that an intricate collage of samples isn’t necessary to make these songs transporting. “Friendship Bracelet” is more than trippy enough as it flutters by on naïve electronics, while “Slow Motion” is submerged in dub-inspired effects and keyboards. Unlike Person Pitch's immersive miasma of sound, Tomboy takes a more song-based approach to Lennox's fondness for Brian Wilson harmonies and melodies. “Last Night at the Jetty” is a wistful, lysergic slow dance, surrounding vocals that could grace a Four Freshmen ballad with heady swirls of guitar; “Surfer’s Hymn” is a reconfigured teenage symphony that sounds like a memory of summer. Lennox recorded Tomboy in a basement studio in Lisbon, Portugal, and the album reflects those surroundings, providing a moody cocoon of sound to retreat into instead of Person Pitch's expansiveness. A feeling of loss often shadows these songs, and there’s a newfound sense of urgency, particularly on “Tomboy” and the fittingly soaring “Afterburner.” Meanwhile “Alsatian Darn,” which begins with chilly, ballad-like verses that warm into choruses that sound like an underwater folk dance, shows just how much more Lennox can do with less. Despite Tomboy's significant changes, it feels less like a radical shift than a subtle progression; while it may not be quite as dazzling as Person Pitch, it should still please fans of that album and Lennox’s many other outlets.


Born: 17 July 1978 in Charlottesville, VA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

As both a solo artist and a member of Animal Collective, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) has proven to be immensely popular and influential since rising to prominence during the early 2000s. Numerous acts (both indie and mainstream) have incorporated his style of reverb-soaked, Beach Boys-esque vocals, as well as his fluid, versatile drumming (which is heavily inspired by Stewart Copeland of the Police). His approach to sample-based composition, blending the techniques of hip-hop producers such as Madlib...
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Tomboy, Panda Bear
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